Watch the most memorable political ads of 2014

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • $1 billion on campaign ads
  • From health care to immigration to the Islamic State
  • The good, the bad and the ugly of 2014 campaign ads
  • Be sure to tune into NewsHour’s election coverage this week before our five-and-a-half hours of live Election Night coverage, on air and online starting at 6 p.m. EST, Nov. 4. #pbselection

More than $1 billion has been spent in this campaign on TV ads. There were several that stood out this year for different reasons — from the issues they brought up to the, sometimes strange, attempts at getting attention. Below, we highlight the best, worst, and most memorable of this campaign:

Health care focus: No single issue saw more money spent on it than health care, and it seemed like every Democrat running was the “deciding vote” on the law. Americans for Prosperity led the charge on anti-health-care law ads, hitting Democrats from Mark Udall in Colorado to Kay Hagan in North Carolina to Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

Target: Obama: Republicans’ main target this election was President Obama and tying Democrats to him. One in Arkansas, run by American Crossroads, summed up the effort with a little girl on stage at a spelling bee. She’s asked to spell, “Pryor.” She responds, “O-B-A-M-A.” The judges conclude, “Close enough.”

But one took the cake for, maybe the creepiest effort to knock the president and attempt to reach out to women. “In 2008, I fell in love,” a woman says before typing away on a laptop in an ad by the conservative group Americans for Shared Prosperity. She goes on to talk about what a great online profile he had, but then it gets serious. “By 2012, our relationship was in trouble,” she says, “but I stuck with him because he promised he’d be better. He’s great at promises.”

From immigration to IS to both: Every week seemed to bring a new issue to the campaign, and there was a candidate to capitalize on them. Thom Tillis in North Carolina loosely tied Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan to President Obama and the Islamic State by noting she had missed hearings and held a cocktail reception fundraiser. “While ISIS grew, President Obama did nothing,” an announcer says. “Senator Kay Hagan, did cocktails.”

Talk about tenuous ties, Republican David Perdue in Georgia not only tied his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn to IS, but also to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants in the same ad. “She’s for amnesty, while terrorism experts say our border breakdown could provide an entry point for groups like ISIS,” an announcer says.

Sharpest attacks: Of course, it wasn’t just Republicans running hotly critical ads. Democrats ran some of the harshest ads of the campaign, be it Mark Begich’s attempt at calling Republican Dan Sullivan soft on sex offenders to Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis using Republican Greg Abbott’s disability against him.

Mr. Nice guy: They weren’t all negative. One by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., running for the Senate, made waves by calling Udall a “nice guy.”

Breakthrough efforts: Others attempted to break through and gain attention with some unique efforts. Some worked, some didn’t. There were animals — from Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst’s pig castrating to Louisiana conservative Rob Maness’ alligator chomp to even monkeys and cocaine.

The Razzie goes to…: Not all of these break-through efforts, however, were well produced or effective. The Razzie for this campaign goes to… “Loan Sharknado” by the Michigan Republican Party.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1858, future President Theodore Roosevelt was born. TR is still the youngest person to assume of the office of the presidency; who is the runner up? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to CTBobL (@CTBobL) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: Where did the meeting between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and President Bill Clinton in which they agreed on a peacekeeping plan in Bosnia take place? The answer was: Hyde Park, N.Y.


  • The latest NBC/Marist polls are out and they’re showing nail biters in most of the top Senate races:

    • Colorado: Gardner/Udall 46 percent to 45 percent
    • Iowa: Ernst/Braley 49 percent to 46 percent
    • Kansas: Orman/Roberts 45 percent to 44 percent
    • Arkansas: Cotton/Pryor 45 percent to 43 percent
    • North Carolina: Hagan/Tillis 43 percent to 43 percent

  • Yet another Democratic surrogate is headed to Iowa to help the struggling Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley. Vice President Joe Biden will attend a public rally Monday to show his support for Braley, just a few days before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for two Braley campaign events. First Lady Michelle Obama stumped for Braley earlier last week.

  • Braley, a former trial lawyer, is in a dead heat race with Republican Joni Ernst, and he is working hard to play up his past blue collar jobs and play down his elitist image.

  • Ernst has gone from an unknown state senator to potentially the next Republican Senator from Iowa. The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse followed Ernst on her RV tour of Iowa to see how she is playing with Hawkeye voters.

  • In the second to last Georgia Senate debate, Democrat Michelle Nunn said she’d support a bipartisan gun control bill requiring universal background checks, while Republican David Perdue was pressed about allegations of pay discrimination during his tenure at Dollar General.

  • In Louisiana, the success of a college football program could affect the outcome of the likely runoff election in the Senate race.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo backtracked on the mandatory quarantine he and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday for medical workers who have had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa. If they are asymptomatic, they will be allowed to spend their quarantine at home. Mr. Obama met with top advisers Sunday to hash out a nationwide policy for returning medical workers.

  • The Boston Globe endorsed Republican Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley for governor this weekend, noting Baker’s departure from the GOP on social issues.

  • Independent Maine Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, endorsed one of his Republican colleagues, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee Friday. King and Alexander worked together on reform of student loan interest rates.

  • With advances in data collection, 2014’s canvassing effort is not your mother’s ground game.

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett busts out the chain saw in his Halloween-themed ad.

  • It’s no accident that Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner and Sen. Mark Udall are taking to HGTV and the Food Network.

  • South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds enjoys a comfortable 9 percentage point lead in the latest Argus Leader/KELO-TV poll Monday. Independent Larry Pressler’s support has dropped to just 13 percent, after trailing Rounds much more closely earlier this month.

  • Campaigning for Martha Coakley Friday, Hillary Clinton praised Sen. Elizabeth Warren, often cast as a potential 2016 rival.

  • Clinton also campaigned for Sen. Kay Hagan this weekend in North Carolina, where the name of the former secretary of state’s granddaughter was a big hit.

  • Both former presidents Bush are the biggest family champions of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush making a bid for the White House. Barbara Bush still isn’t so sure.

  • New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is a moderate Republican in a very blue state, and that’s something that has drawn the attention and admiration of fellow GOPers.

  • Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is endorsing executive action on immigration policy if Congress does not pass reform soon.

  • Roll Call breaks down the moments that defined this cycle’s midterm elections.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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